The Irish Team and Patiala
The story dates back to the
era of Maharaja Bhupinder Singh, who ruled the Princely State of Patiala.
He was six and a half feet tall,
and stories have it that at his dinner table he could devour 24 dozen Quail.
Legend has it that when he rode through his kingdom on his black Arabian horse,
he left many a lady dazed and weak at her knees. In his famous Moti Bagh Palace
he had a bevy of 365 of the most beautiful women from North of India, as his
Ranis. He was one of those who could reach the court of the King Emperor late by
an hour and half, and still be received by his Majesty, without the least sign
of displeasure. The Maharaja of Patiala had the reputation of being a ‘king of
kings’ and was Chancellor of ‘The Chamber of Princes of India’.
He was a keen sportsman. He had a
Polo team, which was undefeated during his reign. Part of his army consisted of
legendary warriors of Punjab. Their favourite pastime was skullpegging. The
skulls of their enemies buried half way into the ground, they lifted the skulls
by pegging them with their spears as they rode their horses, rider and horse
inebriated with ‘bhang’. The civilized version of the game came to be known
as ‘Tent Pegging’.
It was a fearsome Maharajas
generous reward for a fine performance and dire retribution for the loser that
made the Patiala team world tent-pegging champions. It was in the Patiala
tradition to invite the ‘Viceroys Pride’, for a friendly engagement in the
Maharajas territory. The ‘Viceroys Pride’, all Irish men, handsome in their
gait, who in the evening drank till the night’s end, and were still able and
proud to walk straight.
When the ‘Viceroys Pride’
arrived in Patiala for a friendly match, the home team felt nervous and feared
that if they lost the game, it would be their skull on which their Maharaja
would peg his spear. So a conspiracy was hatched. On the evening before the
encounter, the ‘Viceroys Pride ‘ was entertained to the pouring of a double
measure of whiskey in every peg. In the morning, they went into the friendly
match of tent pegging, their heads heavy and groggy. While they were drinking,
the pegs used for tent pegging were replaced with smaller ones for the
‘Viceroys Pride’ and the larger ones for the home team.
The upshot was, the ‘Viceroys
Pride’ lost to the Maharajas team.